Day in Houston hunt on eve of the Masters

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Jason Day was back in contention on the eve of the Masters after two eventful days playing alongside Phil Mickelson at the PGA Tour's Houston Open.

Winless in more than two years and fighting lingering back and neck problems, Day carded a 2-under 68 to pull within two strokes of second-round leader Sam Burns at the difficult Memorial Park.

Australian star Day watched the 50-year-old Michelson hit into the water twice en route to an 8 on the par-3 ninth, then hole out from 193 yards for eagle on the par-4 18th.

Mickelson missed the cut, after following up his opening 76 with a 73.

"He kind of left himself in some pretty tough positions and you're just struggling the whole day," Day said.

Day had three birdies and a bogey on Friday.

"It's one of those golf courses where it can be a little bit frustrating at times, so just got to kind of be smart about it," Day said.

Day was in contention three weeks ago in Las Vegas in the CJ Cup when the neck problem forced him to withdraw early in the final round.

The 12-time PGA Tour winner returned the next week at Sherwood to tie for 60th, and took last week off.

"It's been very inconsistent, obviously, because I'm trying to change my swing a little bit just to try and help the back out," Day said.

"I guess I'm stuck in between patterns right now, what I want to feel, my body just won't handle it and sometimes it just compensates elsewhere. That's why it happened to my neck at CJ."

Burns birdied all three par-5 holes in a bogey-free 65 to reach 7-under at the half-way mark.

Carlos Ortiz of Mexico had a 68 to match Day at 5-under in a share of second.

First-round leader Brandt Snedeker (71), South African Dawie van der Walt (66), Canada's Corey Conners (67), Aaron Wise (66) and Patton Kizzire (67) share fourth at 4-under.

Day's compatriot Adam Scott mixed four birdies with three bogeys for a 69 to sit in a tie for ninth at 3-under and remain well in the hunt.

The other Australians slid down the leaderboard with Greg Chalmers (73) and Matt Jones (72) at 1-over while Cameron Davis, who started the day tied for second, plummeted to 3-over to make the cut on the number after a 76.

Top-ranked Dustin Johnson, in his first event back after testing positive for COVID-19 last month, fired a 66 to get to 2-under.

The tournament - at the public Memorial Park for the first time since 1963 - is the first domestic PGA Tour event to have fans since March. Tickets are capped at 2,000 a day.